This is a glossary of terms and acronyms that relate to New Zealand's land survey and registration systems.
Note: Definitions in this glossary are gathered from a range of sources; full details of quoted material and sources are available on request.
Abstracts/lodgement forms are records of the instruments (mortgages, leases, etc) lodged with LINZ by lawyers in land transactions.
These are now made electronically. Historically, abstracts/lodgement forms were a pre-printed form, typed or handwritten, and were bound into books.
This is the legal description for a specific piece of land. Land has been numbered and named differently in each Land District over time. Thus, locating land by its historical legal description depends on its Land District and the type of land being dealt with. Some examples include:
- ‘Section 1 Block VII Mata Survey District’ for Crown land
- ‘Kaiti 313A6B2’ for Māori Land
- ‘Section 1019-1022 Town of Christchurch’ for land in a town.
Each of these depends on the way the land was historically recorded and described.
The commonly used terms to describe the land are parcels (eg Lots) and plan types (eg Deposited Plan, Survey Office plan, etc). So currently land is described as ‘Lot 123 on DP 456’. Historical legal descriptions vary by Land District and include ‘Hundreds’, ‘Parishes’, and ‘Blocks’.
Under the current land transfer system, each parcel of land is described as a Lot on a DP (Deposited Plan), eg Lot 123 DP4567 (the 123rd lot on Deposited Plan 4567).
You can find legal descriptions on rating valuation notices or rates demands. You can also search maps on some local council websites. Rating rolls, held by some city and district councils, also list the history of legal descriptions for properties.
Also known as ‘Record Map’ or ‘Block Sheet’, depending on the Land District it relates to.
A Cadastral Record Map is a compilation of information from Survey Plans and other sources, showing Section and Lot boundaries, areas, legal roads and other legal information that may not have any specific plan on which it was recorded. Early sequences are often referred to as ‘Imperial’ maps (drawn on a scale of chains to the inch) while later sequences are called ‘Metric’ record maps.
The Cadastral Record Map is the only paper record which gives an overall picture of an area and references all the Survey Plan Numbers. This is the starting point for any surveyor wanting copies of plans for a new survey.
These should not be confused with the commercially published NZMS Cadastral Maps.
Cadastral Survey Dataset (CSD)
The Cadastral Survey Act 2002 defines a CSD as "the set of cadastral survey data necessary to integrate a cadastral survey into the cadastre". See 'cadastre' below.
The Cadastral Survey Act 2002 defines the cadastre as "all the cadastral survey data held by or for the Crown and Crown agencies".
Certificate of Title
See 'Record of Title'.
Land originally owned by the Crown granted to private owners before the title system came about. Crown grants continue to exist till this day for large pieces of land. Any subdivisions of land from a Crown grant will be issued a record of title.
Crown grants were issued under the Royal Instructions of 1840 by Governor Hobson and later by legislation, such as the Crown Grants Act and the Land Act. There are two types of Crown grants:
- Bound volumes
- New Munster grants.
‘Crown land’ means land vested in Her Majesty that is not set aside for any public purpose or held by any person in fee simple (see the Land Act 1948, s 2). Crown land in New Zealand is administered under the provisions of the Land Act 1948.
In terms of section 129 of Te Ture Whenua Maori 1993, land (other than Māori customary land and Crown land reserved for Māori) that has not been alienated from the Crown for a subsisting estate in fee simple has the status of Crown land.
See 'Cadastral Survey Dataset'
The deeds system was the main way property ownership was recorded in New Zealand before the land titles system. There is a very small area of land remaining in the deeds system.
A copy of the deed itself was held by the landowner, as their evidence of ownership, while the original was lodged and registered – LINZ still holds a partial set of these documents.
Note, however, that the significant record of the land transaction is the entry in the Deeds Register.
All deed registers and/or indexes are now held by Archives New Zealand.
Records from the deed books can be only digitally copied, because of the size and fragility of the volumes, so you may need to view these in person, or pay for a digital copy of a specific page.
Sometimes also known as a ‘Title Plan’, these are plans recording land transfer subdivisions that have been deposited by the Registrar-General of Land. They are identified by a number and a DP prefix such as ‘DP 12345’. Most modern land transfers are identified by their position on a specific deposited plan, eg Lot 123 DP 4567.
This is the plan deposited when the title was created. This could be a simple plan of the property's boundaries, area and dimensions, a detailed survey plan or a combination of both.
An easement is a right to use the land of another without having the right to possession of that land. The land subject to the easement is the ‘burdened land’ (previously known as the 'servient tenement'). An easement may be:
- for the benefit of the owner of other land, when it is said to be 'appurtenant to' or attached to the ‘benefited land’ (previously known as the 'dominant tenement') or
- an easement 'in gross', meaning it is for the benefit of a specific person or corporation .
The ‘grantor’ of an easement is the registered owner of the burdened land. The ‘grantee’ is the registered owner of the benefited land, or the person who receives the benefit of an easement in gross.
Some common easements deal with:
- rights of way – the grantee can walk or drive a car etc over the burdened land, such as a shared driveway
- drainage – the grantee such as an adjoining owner can drain water over the burdened land
- right to convey electricity/gas/telecommunications and computer media – the grantee can run utilities through pipes or lines through the grantee’s land.
An easement instrument is a specific form of instrument, first introduced in 2002, which may be used to create new easements. An easement instrument is now registered under section 109 Land Transfer Act 2017. Historically, easements were created by different forms of instruments, including:
- an Easement Instrument under section 90A Land Transfer Act 1952
- Transfer Instrument under section 90 Land Transfer Act 1952
- a Memorandum of Transfer under any former Land Transfer Act
- a Memorandum registered under section 155A Land Transfer Act 1952 – this is a form in which someone can set out the standard terms and conditions applying to transactions registered on a regular basis. (The Memorandum was registered with LINZ, which allocates a reference number, and then transactions can refer to that reference number instead of setting out the terms and conditions for every transaction. Memorandum forms are commonly used by banks for mortgages, but can be used by others such as the publishers of generic mortgage, lease and easement instrument forms.)
- an Easement Certificate under the former section 90A Land Transfer Act 1952
- any other document by which a registered easement may have been granted or created.
A transfer instrument registered under section 73 or a deposit document registered under section 110 of the Land Transfer Act 2017 may also be used to register an easement.
See 'Surveyor’s Field Book'.
These are coloured plans with measurements in imperial standards (eg chains, links, roods, perches, acres).
These are volumes created to give access to another set of records. They can be arranged many different ways, including by name, and vary in form and content between the different land districts.
An instrument is a legal document such as a transfer of ownership, a mortgage or an easement. Sometimes they are referred to simply as ‘documents’. The most common types of land transfer instruments are:
- discharge of mortgage
The Land Transfer Journals were compiled in 1871–1974 as a daily record of all instruments received for registration, listed in the order in which they were received. Other records called journals usually record financial transactions.
Section 22 of the Land Act 1948 declared 12 Land Districts. These are listed below with the principal office and the reference to the gazetted description.
|Land District||Principal Office||Gazette Reference|
|North Auckland||Auckland||NZ Gazette 1936 p1806|
|South Auckland||Hamilton||NZ Gazette 1936 p1806|
|(Previously Auckland District, Land Act 1948 s 22 changed the District name to South Auckland)|
|Gisborne||Gisborne||NZ Gazette 1936 p1806|
|Hawkes Bay||Napier||NZ Gazette 1936 p1806|
|Taranaki||New Plymouth||NZ Gazette 1936 p1806|
|Wellington||Wellington||NZ Gazette 1936 p1806|
|Nelson||Nelson||NZ Gazette 1901 p2411|
|Marlborough||Blenheim||NZ Gazette 899 p167|
|Canterbury||Christchurch||NZ Gazette 1915 p955 & 3547|
|Westland||Hokitika||NZ Gazette 1901 p2411|
|Otago||Dunedin||NZ Gazette 1955 p676|
|Southland||Invercargill||NZ Gazette 1955 p676|
Land Transfer Acts
The Torrens system of title registration was implemented in 1870, replacing the Deeds system and Act. The 1870 Act was consolidated in 1885 and there have been four further consolidations with the most recent one being the Land Transfer Act 2017. Use of this system is compulsory; no legal interest in land may be created except by registration under the Land Transfer Act 2017.
The Torrens system has three core principles:
- Mirror principle – the register accurately and completely mirrors the state of title.
- Curtain principle – purchasers of land should not concern themselves with trusts and other interests lying behind the curtain of the register. The exception is that some public trusts can appear on titles (see section 153 Land Transfer Act 2017).
- Insurance principle – this provides state guarantee to the title and the interests registered on it and provides for losses incurred as a result of errors in the registry.
Indefeasibility is a core concept of the land transfer system. It protects the registered owner (formerly known as the ‘registered proprietor’) against claims of a competing owner, and against encumbrances, estates and interests not appearing on the register. This system is supported by the state guarantee as to the accuracy of the registered rights. Indefeasibility can be defeated in the event that it can be proven that fraudulent activity has been carried out by the owners in obtaining the title.
These are plans drawn up for land taken under the Public Works Act 1981 or other legislation.
This is land which remains, in legal terms, in its 1840 state. It is an undefined customary interest which overlies the Crown’s radical title. The original Māori customary interests have not been altered by purchase, Land Court determination, or any other process. Apart from a few rocky outcrops on the coast missed by the Land Court when investigating titles in previous years, or a few hectares in rugged country where survey lines have failed to meet, very little, if any, Māori customary land exists. Where it does exist, it is totally unalienable.
Māori Freehold Land
This is land where the customary interest has been converted to a fee simple interest after an investigation by the Land Court, and the land has not subsequently been sold or otherwise changed its status. There are about 1.3 million hectares of Māori freehold land today. Where more than one person owns the land, which is the norm, the tenants in common are not assumed to hold equal shares, instead the size of the interest of each owner will have been noted in the Court Orders creating the freehold title.
Together, Māori customary land and freehold land comprise what is legally termed as ‘Māori Land’, although practically the term means Māori freehold land.
Māori Land Court
The primary objective of the Māori Land Court is to promote and assist the retention of Māori land and general land owned by Māori in the hands of the owners and to promote the effective use, management and development of these lands. Its functions are primarily administrative rather than judicial, and its approach is inquisitorial rather than strictly judicial. It is constituted as a court of record but has wide powers with regard to the receipt of evidence and management of its own procedure.
Almost all dealings with Māori land require the assistance or approval of the Māori Land Court. The Court has extensive powers to determine the status of land,; confirm or deny sales, leases or gifts;, determine claims to relative interests in the land,; establish, audit, and dissolve trusts and incorporations set up to administer the land,; and determine interests on death of owners.
Māori Land Plans
These are Māori land subdivisions or partitions. They are identified by a number and an ML prefix, such as ‘ML 12345’.
A Māori reservation may be created from Māori freehold or general land for the purposes of village site, marae, meeting place, recreation ground, sports ground, bathing place, church site, building site, burial ground, landing place, fishing ground, spring, well, catchment area or other source of water supply, timber reserve, or place of cultural, historical, or scenic interest, or for any other specified purpose. Māori reservations are held for the common use and benefit of the owners or classes of Māori specified. Often these will be descendants of a common ancestor. Reservations may also be for the use and benefit of the people of New Zealand, but only with the agreement of the Māori owners and the relevant local authority.
Māori reservations are created by application and hearing before the Māori Land Court, which makes a recommendation to the Chief Executive of Te Puni Kōkiri. The reservation is created by notice in the Gazette.
Reservations are normally managed by trustees appointed by the Court.
Alienations of reservation land are severely restricted. While it is a reservation the land may not be sold, although it may be leased for a limited time period in certain circumstances. Land subject to a mortgage or charge cannot be included in a reservation, but land under a lease or licence may be. A reservation for a meeting place or marae may include land leased on a perpetually renewable basis.
Māori reservations have in recent years assumed a new importance as a mechanism to settle claims under the Treaty of Waitangi for the return of land controlled by the Crown. Section 339 of Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993 provides that the Minister of Maori Affairs may apply to the Court for any land (including Crown land and some lands owned by state-owned enterprises and former state-owned enterprises) to be considered for a reservation on the grounds of its historical significance or spiritual or emotional association for certain Māori.
Māori reservations are different to Māori reserves. Māori reserves are lands administered by the Māori Trustee under the Māori Reserved Land Act 1955.
A pastoral lease is a lease of Crown land for grazing, pastoral purposes or by individual or private owners or by body corporates.
Much of the South Island high country has been farmed under some form of lease arrangement from the 1850s and these leases were consolidated in a pastoral lease system under the Land Act 1948, which granted leaseholders exclusive occupation rights and fixed rentals but not right of freehold.
Under the Crown Pastoral Lease Act 1998 (CPLA), which updated legislation covering pastoral leases in 1998, pastoral leaseholders are entitled to perpetual right of renewal (leases come up for renewal every 33 years) and pay nominal rents (as set out in the Act at between 1.5% and 2.25% of unimproved land value, with rents reviewed every 11 years). The land is still owned by the Crown. The CPLA also established the tenure review process.
The Provisional Registers were first established in 1871. When freehold, partition or other title orders of the Māori Land Court were first registered under the Land Transfer Act 1952, they were entered in the Provisional Registers (PR).
Each title order is given a volume and folio number which along with the prefix ‘PR’ can be used as a reference to access them. Almost all of these title orders are first generated by the Māori Land Court, and copies are often still held in the Māori Land Court.
Each Provisional Registration contains memorials entered against it referring to documents containing information affecting the land or its ownership. Usually, where the land is surveyed and the fees paid, a full certificate of title (now known as a 'record of title') was issued for the land. The title will show the earlier PR reference, which will also be noted in a memorial of any new title references arising from it.
Under the Land Transfer Act 2017 all land, estates or interests that were registered on the provisional register will be treated as if a qualified record of title had been created for it.
See ‘Qualified Record of Title’.
Qualified Record of Title
The Registrar-General of Land (RGL) may record that a record of title is qualified if:
- The boundaries of the land are not adequately defined in a registered instrument or plan
- The record of title is a ‘replacement record’ for a reconstituted record of title and the RGL is unable to create a record of title that is identical to the replaced record
- Section 124 of the Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 applies
- A circumstance prescribed by the Land Transfer Regulations exists, or
- Any other enactment provides for the title to be qualified.
A registered owner takes the record of title subject to any qualification and if the grounds for the qualification cease to apply, they may apply to have a replacement record issued without the qualification.
Record of title
A record of title records the legal owners of land and all dealings with the land, like transfers of ownership and mortgages, leases etc, registered under the Land Transfer Act 2017. Records of title were initially known as ‘certificates of title’ and then converted into ‘computer registers’ between 1999 and 2002 (when the electronic database Landonline came into use). Following the commencement of the Land Transfer Act 2017 in November 2018, ‘record of title’ is now used. All records of title are held electronically in Landonline.
Large volumes used to record information such as the receipt of a legal plan. Entries are usually in chronological order. These include Block registers, survey district registers, plan registers, Parish registers and so on. They vary by Land district, and many offices created registers that other offices did not.
With the abolition of the Provinces on 1 November 1876, a standard system of surveys was instituted. New Zealand was divided into twenty-eight geographical areas, termed Meridional Circuits. These areas were then divided into Survey Districts. A survey district was to be 122 miles (1,000 chains) square and divided into l6 blocks 3 miles (250 chains) square.
See also Survey Plans. A Survey Office plan is a record of all survey observations (bearing and distances) required to determine the correct position of the boundaries of a lot or section. Survey Office plans show these observations, together with underlying record of title boundaries, legal roads, and other information necessary to comply with the statutory requirements applying at that time. Plans are identified with a number and an SO prefix such as SO 12345.
Some sequences of survey plans date back more than 160 years. Older plans may include the names of European settlers as well as English and Māori place names. The main sequences of plans are:
- Deposited plans (DP)
- Survey office plans (SO)
- Māori land plans (ML).
Survey plans also show the label or ‘appellation’ for a piece of land. Some examples are ‘Section 1 Block VII Mata Survey District’ for Crown land or ‘Kaiti 313A6B2’ for Māori land or ‘Lot 1 DP 12345’ for general land).
When modern land is surveyed, surveyors create the survey plan and send it to LINZ. Plan approval and deposit enables records of titles to be issued. All survey plans are held electronically in Landonline.
Surveyor’s Field Book
Surveyors use field books to record measurements obtained in the field. Field books show the bearings and distances between each survey mark involved in a survey.
Field books date back more than 160 years. Older books may have place names and physical features (eg pa sites, hills, houses, etc). They are typically bound volumes from circa 1840.
See 'Deposited Plans'.
In survey, traverse is defined as the field operation of measuring the lengths and directions of a series of straight lines connecting a series of points on the earth.
Each of the straight lines in a traverse is called a traverse leg, and each point is called a traverse station.
Any survey mark that is not on a boundary. As well as the usual traverse and witness marks, this can include marks that were formerly on a boundary, eg if the mark has been disturbed or if the boundary has been extinguished.
Traverse records are made up of schedules of coordinates assigned to each survey mark placed by surveyors. Traverse records are also known as traverse reductions or books. They come in bound volumes.
Triangulation (Trig) Stations
Reference points used in surveying, where the technique of triangulation is used in surveying to determine distances, using the properties of the triangle. To begin, surveyors measure a certain length exactly to provide a base line. From each end of this line they then measure the angle to a distant point, using a theodolite. They now have a triangle in which they know the length of one side and the two adjacent angles. By simple trigonometry they can work out the lengths of the other two sides. To make a complete survey of the region, they repeat the process, building on the first triangle.
|ASP||Agreement for Sale and Purchase|
|CCL||Commissioner of Crown Lands|
|CL||Crown Land OR Crown Lease|
|DPC||Deferred Payment, Commercial and Industrial|
|DPF||DPF Deferred Payment, Farm|
|DPL||Deferred Payment, License|
|DPU||Deferred Payment, Urban|
|IFORP||Improved Farm, Occupation with Right of Purchase|
|IFRL||Improved Farm, Renewable Lease|
|IFS||Improved Farm Settlement|
|IFSLP||Improved Farm Settlement, Lease in Perpetuity|
|LIP/LP||Lease in Perpetuity|
|ML||Māori Land OR Māori Lease OR Miscellaneous Licence|
|MLC||Māori Land Court|
|NP||National Park OR Native Plan|
|OLC||Old Land Claim|
|ORP||Occupation with Right of Purchase|
|PL||Perpetual Lease OR Pastoral Licence|
|RLC||Renewable Lease, Commercial and Industrial|
|RLF||Renewable Lease, Farm|
|RLLS||Renewable Lease, Settlement Land|
|RLU||Renewable Lease, Urban|
|RP||Roll Plan OR Road Plan|
|SFRL||Small Farms Renewable Lease|
|SFS||Special Farm Settlement OR Small Farms - Ex-Servicemen|
|SGR||Small Grazing Runs|
|STDP||Special Tenure - Deferred Payment|
|STDPS||Special Tenure, Deferred Payment - Settlement|
|STL||Special Tenure, Lease|
|STLS||Special Tenure, Lease - Settlement|
|TB/TR/TV||Traverse Book OR Traverse Volume|
|TRL||Town Renewable Lease|
|WCSR||West Coast Settlement Reserve|